Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Conversations re: Interchangable qualities of Writing and Design

Ok, so since I lapsed in writing you this last Wednesday, I am going to send you two essays, one today (Monday) and one in the middle of the week as we originally planned. This actually works out quite well since I wanted to talk to you about two important factors story telling. Each are significant in their own right, but they are most definitely dependent on each other when it comes down to telling a tale that makes people want to read further than the first couple lines. The first of these skills is nothing other got it, OBSERVATION.

Ernest Hemingway has this to say about the topic:
"Listen NOW. When people talk, listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice. When you’re in town stand outside the theatre and see how the people differ in the way they get out of taxis or motor cars. There are a thousand ways to practice. And always think of other people.
By Line: Ernest Hemingway, pp. 219-220

A design may have a good subject matter, but as you have written to me in emails prior, there are several other different details that all attribute to amplifying the main picture/idea. Without those intricate factors, the design lacks the “wow” factor. It is the same with a good story. It doesn’t matter if a writer has the most heart-wrenching or revolutionary plot that has ever existed, if he or she does not execute the telling with an acute awareness for detail, then it is nothing more than a theme at best. One cannot obtain those needed details without observation. Whether it is a documentation of a literal environment of sights and sounds, or a figurative environment in ones mind, the need is still the same. The author has to train himself to gather up all that he can so that when he recollects the events to his audience, they are fed a feast of flavors. While this may seem like a simple task, it is really much harder to do than one would think. The fast paced world we live in at present makes it especially difficult to even notice anything more than the obvious.

For example, on an average visit to a diner, most individuals would not be concerned with whether or not one woman’s nylons were a pale cream or a sheer flesh color. Or if the man at the table behind her was reading the sports section or the personal ads, and whether or not he had two creamers in his coffee or one. Or whether or not she nervously fidgeted with her pearl earring or was just fixing the clasp.

However, the observant storyteller walks into the room and is concerned with only these small details. Why? Because look what we are able to do with a few simple observations.

If the man and woman were at two different tables and the man was reading the personal sections and not the sports and the woman was nervously playing with her pearl earrings, than we can infer that he is not in a relationship and she is not comfortable eating alone. If he had two creamers in his coffee perhaps he is a more sensitive man than most. If she has pearl earrings and pale cream nylons, than perhaps we can say that she is a little more conservative and whimsical than most. Voila. Without any dialogue or obvious narrative statements, we see glimpse of a story already beginning to unfold. Two lonely hearts sit unknowingly back to back, in a local diner.

There is probably no author that I know of who has mastered the art of observation better than Virginia Woolf. Here is a small excerpt from her book entitled Mr. Dalloway.

“In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge, in the bellow and the up-roar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwhich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”.

Well there you have it. Part I of our two part series. Let me know if you have any questions, as topics such as the ones we are discussing have various inquiries that could arise at any corner.

P.S. Thank you for notating the importance of "movement" in a design. It has caused me to think critically about this area of my writing...


Chris said...

Great reminder. I'm horribly guilty of thinking of what I want to say while someone is talking to me. Or worse, daydreaming or observing something about their appearance and totally missing what they just said. There's so much to be seen and heard, that's for sure.

seannaes said...

I just read the original a couple months ago, shortly after I realized through a conversation with Nathan Blankenship how bad I am at creating stories. How pleasant to find such correspondence here.